Most everyone has seen the mug shot of Tiger Woods after his recent arrest for DUI in Jupiter, Florida. Upon hearing of his arrest for driving under the influence, or DUI, many automatically assumed he was under the influence of alcohol and driving drunk. After all, it was reported his speech was slurred, he failed basic roadside sobriety tests, and he was falling asleep at the wheel. All classic signs of alcohol impaired driving, and all too recognizable by the auto accident lawyers at Tapalian Law, as signs of a dangerous and impaired driver. While a crime often used to charge drunk drivers, DUI, or driving while impaired (DWI) includes not just driving under the influence of alcohol, but can also be impairment from other drugs, both recreational and prescription drugs, or a combination of any of these substances. The impairment by the substance, or combination of substances, brings the driver to a level rendering them incapable of operating a motor vehicle safely. In the case of Tiger Woods, it appears he was not using alcohol, but was influenced by several medications, reportedly including Vicodin (an opioid pain reliever), Torix (an anti-inflammatory), and another sleeping medication. Due to a recent back surgery Woods had undergone, these types of medications would not be uncommon after a major surgery.
DUI Involving Prescription Drugs a Growing Problem in America
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of drivers involved in fatal auto crashes testing positive for drugs has doubled in the past 10 years. Illicit drugs are included in these figures but the lesser known drugs involved in these crashes are prescription medications, over the counter drugs, and supplements. Often times accidental overdoses occur as many patients do not comprehend the impact that mixing prescription drugs with other drugs, even as seemingly simple as allergy medication, or alcohol, can have on them. In fact, it is reported that nearly half of men and two-thirds of woman over the age of 65, are taking five or more medications at once. Sometimes a patient may forget that they took a medication already, and take it again, resulting in an overdose with impairing effects. It’s not always possible to predict the outcome that a combination of drugs, both prescription and non-prescription, will have on a person. The situation is even more difficult to predict when a patient is taking multiple drugs, prescribed by multiple doctors.
Effects of Prescription Drugs on Driving
While it is true that opiate medications, such as Vicodin, have their purpose for certain patients after surgery, they should not be used by driving and need to be closely monitored. All opiate type medications come with a warning to not drive or operate heavy machinery. This is extremely important to heed as these drugs can impair reflexes and reaction times, and the effects are often worsened when mixed with other drugs or alcohol. Other drugs, like sedatives, can cause drowsiness. Ambien, a common sleep aid, can even contribute to unconsciousness and some users have side effects like memory loss, sleep driving, sleep walking, and other odd behaviors they cannot recall doing.
Tips to Avoid Negative Reactions from Prescription Drugs
Driving under the influence, whether intentional or not, is serious and very dangerous to the driver, passengers, and others on the road. Nearly 43% of driver fatalities involved either prescription or illegal drugs in the drivers’ system, according to a 2015 study by the Governors Highway Safety Association. As a Rhode Island car accident attorney, David Tapalian sees the devastating effects being injured by an impaired driver can have on a victim and their family. If you are taking any kind of drug or medication:
- Speak with your pharmacist about potential drug or medication interactions and the side effects they may have. Be honest about all medications you are taking so they can possibly spot bad, or even deadly, combinations.
- Discuss all medications and drugs with your primary care doctor. This includes all medications prescribed by any other doctors you see.
- Organize your medication with the help of a pill divider case, or a trusted family member, to lessen the chance of taking an accidental extra dose.
- Lock up all medications to prevent tragic accidental overdoses by children or teenagers.
- If you have any hesitations about driving while taking a medication, or combination of medicines, do not risk your life or the lives of others on the road. Ask a friend if you need a ride, or use a car service such as Uber, or a cab.
If You Have Been Injured in a Car Accident by a Driver Under the Influence of Prescription Drugs
If you have been hurt in a car accident and the other driver was under the influence of prescription drugs, illegal drugs, over the counter medicines, or alcohol, seek the advice of a Providence car accident lawyer at once. Whether your injuries are minor or major, the effects of a car accident can be life-altering in many ways. By consulting with an auto accident attorney, you will find out if you are eligible to receive compensation for your injuries, medical and hospital expenses, lost wages, and/or pain and suffering. Attorney David Tapalian is a skilled auto accident lawyer with over 15 years of experience helping injured victims of DUI and DWI car crashes, negligent driving, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, slip & falls, and other types of auto accidents, including truck and motorcycle accidents. Do not hesitate to seek advice for your Rhode Island or Massachusetts car accident. Tapalian Law provides a free consultation of your case by phone or in person, at your convenience. Contact us today for free at 401-552-5000 or contact us by email.